The Cove is not gonna make Japan many friends among the world’s dolphin and whale lovers, but it is definitely worth a watch.
Although it could probably go lighter on the whole Mission: Impossible antics (unfortunately, it seems you just can’t sell a documentary nowadays if it doesn’t feature endless gratuitous action montages), the scenes it captures are captivating and hard to ignore. Beyond the expected money shot of an expanse of ocean literally red with dolphin blood, the investigative work offers some fascinating insights into the cynical political maneuvering that goes on to ensure the fishing doesn’t stop.
The vast farce that is the International Whaling Commission and a long tradition of Japan’s bribing third world island countries for votes, gets the bashing it deserves: I don’t care what your opinions on the whaling issue are, if you seriously believe in the “scientific whaling” argument, you are very misinformed or a moron.
Casual observers of Japanese modern history do not need to be told of its infamous propensity to always side with industries against public welfare, when environmental or public health scandals strike. Others will probably think that the recount of Minamata disease’s infamous cover-up is exaggerated… After all, while Western countries routinely poison locals in remote third-world countries and get away with it, it is quite a rare thing for a country to let companies do it on its own soil and unfalteringly support them when things go awry (and long after that). Long-time residents will also enjoy the nod to Japan’s sub-par criminal justice system, delight in spotting the usual cast of Japanese administration characters (the blatantly corrupt – yet utterly polite – cop on local business’ payroll, the roboticized bureaucratic talking-head, the government “scientist” spouting pseudo-science etc. etc.), without, unfortunately, escaping the usual trite clichés (is there a single japanese story that cannot be illustrated with a nail and a hammer?).
This documentary is not without its faults and I honestly have my doubt about the efficiency of the “Us vs. Them” brand of activism, when confronted to Japanese culture. But regardless of which side of the Blubber Hamburger / Cute Smiling Cetacean debate you stand on, there are a couple items worth pondering in there.